Chocolate Pairings

One of the most interesting aspects of fine chocolate is that it doesn’t much like company.

Chocolate’s flavors (slightly bitter, not very sweet, slightly acid), its aromas (intense cocoa coupled with the distinct flavors of certain fillings), its persistence on the tongue and its tannins overpower most wines, liqueurs and other drinks.

The problem becomes even more complicated when you consider chocolate has so many personalities. It can be dark and intensely flavored, or sweet and white or delicately touched with milk to give it a gentleness. Chocolate can be plain or filled or part of a delicious dessert.

There are, however, a few wines, spirits, teas and coffees well suited to accompany fine chocolate.

Chocolate and wine : a difficult match

Wine must have a very powerful single-note aroma or chocolate will overwhelm it. Wines offering more subtle charms are, therefore, unsuitable matches for chocolate.

The best wine to accompany chocolate shouldn’t be too dry, too acid, too tannic or too astringent. It should also not be too alcoholic.

Wine RICHART has found pleasing company for fine chocolate include:

  • Vin Jaune from Jura with its powerful, nutty flavor is a perfect accompaniment to plain chocolate, such as a very full-bodied Venezuela (80-85% cocoa) or even a praliné.
  • Banyuls Grand Cru or a Maury, with its roasted, woody, tobacco-like aromas would work well with a chocolate dessert.
  • Hungarian Tokaji, with its notes of apricot, butter and caramel, is rapturous with filled milk chocolate ganache or with a caramel made with slightly salted butter.
  • A Xeres that’s not too sweet, such as a well-rounded Fino, or, even better, a Pedro Jiminez with its almond aromas, is well suited to an almond praliné.
  • Tawny port, with its vanilla, cinnamon and orange notes is perfect with plain dark chocolate.
  • And, one shouldn’t forget a mellow Jurançon, with its lime and clove aromas, is in perfect harmony with filled pralinés or spice-flavored ganaches.

Chocolates and spirits (Whisky – Cognac – Armagnac – Rum): an easy match

Every whiskey has a strong and distinct personality. The best ones to savor with chocolate should be not very tannic, but offer powerful woody undertones and notes of dried fruit, nuts, butter and caramel.

They should also not be too bitter, too acidic, too sweet or too powerfully alcoholic.

Some recommendations:

  • Old Speysides, Sherry cask like an 18 year-old Macallan with a Piemontese hazelnut praliné.
  • A 21-year-old Glenfarclas with plain chocolate with an 85% Peruvian cocoa content.

Some bourbons, with their roasted, honeyed aromas go beautifully with more delicate chocolates and desserts.

Old Cognacs and Armagnacs that are very rounded on the palate with few tannins and very little astringency are a fine match with plain chocolate or filled chocolates that aren’t too sweet.

Old and very old rums are perfect with pralinés and ganaches (Bailly from before 1940 are sublime).

If you prefer not to drink alcohol, water may be the perfect accompaniment for fine chocolate. Water perfectly cleanses the palate between tastings.

Chocolate and coffee : simply wonderful

Coffee and chocolate share many similarities and work well together both in filled chocolates and desserts.

For a perfect match, it’s better to avoid very bitter coffees or any coffee with a scorched flavor. Maragogype coffees are mild and very refined, and thus perfectly suited for chocolate tasting.

A wonderful coupling would be a bitter Venezuelan chocolate with at least 70 percent pure cocoa enjoyed with a cup of Jamaican “Blue Mountain” coffee.

Tea and chocolate are very difficult to pair up. And green teas are especially difficult to pair with chocolate. Teas’ astringency, acidity and tannins work against the flavors of the chocolate. A partially fermented tea is most pleasing with chocolate. Oolong is among the best.